With Reality Sinking, Reality May Sink in for Product Placement Deals

Barely a week into the new season, and two big name reality shows (and all their product placements) are showing signs of heading to the back shelves.

Both NBC's "The Apprentice" and Bravo's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" are seemingly not what they were. Donald Trump's "Apprentice," which averaged a blockbuster 10 rating in adults 18 to 49 last year, only produced a 6 rating for the first episode this year.

"Queer Eye" is having a queer start, too. Or it may be just a fashionably late one. In the summer, its ratings were off 40 percent. What would programming executives say? Bravo executives weren't really asked by the press, but I'm sure those executives would remark: "C'mon it's the summer. Ratings are always low."

Then I guess we reporters should stop buying that cable ratings are always higher in the summer - mostly because the networks are in reruns.



Bravo has recently been running the U.K. version of "Queer Eye." Has the network given up on the U.S. guys so fast? More importantly, what will happen to all those cool New York stores that are featured in the show where you can buy cool clothes or to get cool shaving creams? What'll happen to all those product placement deals?

Don't worry. Bravo bravely ordered 40 new episodes of the original show, and a spin off, "Queer Eye for the Straight Girl."

The Donald is also in no danger of leaving soon, and Mark Burnett isn't worried. He is a shrewd producer, and the money is already in the bank. That's the way it is with reality shows, which have zero rerun value in syndication, on cable, on palm pilots, or on cell phones.

Burnett's success has him demanding that he sell some of NBC's advertising time - an unheard of concession for any TV producer. Additionally, he gets "appearance" fees -- product integration fees -- for products or services during most of the 43 minutes of content for his hour shows.

The price tag for that is a skyrocketing $1 million for each product that's integrated into the story line. But what if the ratings continue south? One can only hope that there are make-goods for that expensive product placement.

How does that go? Oh yeah, I guess advertisers get some make-good placement or product integration in other Mark Burnett show's -- "Commando Nanny" or "The Contender."

It shouldn't be too hard to position "The Apprentice's" current product placement brand, Procter & Gamble's Crest toothpaste, in "The Contender" - especially when a boxer's teeth are getting knocked out.

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